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Fast Confession - Senator of the Parliament of the Czech Republic Miroslava Němcová: I have not read any of Babiš's books, he has never written one

Karolína Lišková
29.Oct 2021
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10 minutes

Miroslava Němcová and I meet regularly, and conversations with her are more than pleasant. Last year, she was successfully elected to the Senate and after a year in her new position, we were interested to see where her next steps would lead. For several years now, she has been literally "pushed" to run for the presidency of our country, and this topic is becoming more and more pressing. Our meeting took place a few weeks before the election. Miroslava Němcová does not spare criticism of the current government and her opinions and proposals for solutions are more than worth considering. Anyway, this time we talked mainly about a possible candidacy for head of state.

When I mentioned that I was going to do an interview with you, everyone told me to tell you that you should finally run.

I can feel the pressure growing, it's only natural. The term of the current president is coming to an end. But it's not good to make decisions under pressure.

I interviewed Danuše Nerudová and Adéla Šípová, who together with you were included in the poll for the future president by Heroine magazine. What do you think about this, apart from the fact that it's a lot of pressure on you, because your name has been resonating as a potential candidate for many years? Do you think a woman, either you or anyone else, would "clean it up" at the Castle better?

I can't really divide it into the world of women and men. I'm still convinced that those worlds are connected and we are meant to live in them together, and I'm sure the decision should be based on who is better. I'm not saying that in any circumstances a woman in the Castle will be better than all good and qualified men. It's not that simple, and I’m against it.

On the other hand, I also see a desire in society for something that would make a big difference. This is reflected in the emphasis on the female element in politics. I would say that there is a certain readiness in society for such a big change.

Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m
Luxusní byt na prodej Praha - 320m, Praha 5

What about your surroundings? If you're being pushed by colleagues and journalists, that's one thing, but I wonder what your family thinks?

We talk about it at home. You can't not talk about it. Throughout my political career, my husband has always had the attitude that if I make a decision, I will make a good decision and he will support me. But I feel he wouldn't be too keen on the role of the First Gentleman. But he's not saying it.

So the only thing that pushes you to the wall is the pressure, which is uncomfortable?

The pressure, and most importantly the fact that you really have to be sure at the moment you make a decision that you have the strength, energy and ability to go all the way.

But you have enough of those...

I do now, but what happens next year, nobody knows. That's why I don't think it's possible to announce a decision a year or so in advance, and that it should be a considered decision. It's not like we're gonna agree to have coffee together and then call each other and say it's off. This is different.

As I interview politicians a lot, I mainly ask, especially women, why there are so few of them in politics. And they, and the men, tell me that it's an inhospitable environment, not just for men, but especially for women. Do you also have women around you who come to you for advice on how to be more successful in politics, because it's not really for everyone?

I encounter women who want to enter politics, or students who are interested, whether they are studying political science, social sciences or journalism, who want to explore the political world and see a little bit of the backstage, so they ask me these questions and we always end up with the trivial question of whether or not quotas would help to increase the representation of women.

I am an opponent of quotas, because I think that it certainly does not solve anything, and as an example, my political party, ODS, was the only one to have a female President of the Senate, Libuše Benešová, and a female President of the Chamber of Deputies, which was me. We did not need quotas. I think we were simply able to assert ourselves, and I like this principle in all fields. I can't think of any branch that would benefit from having mandatory quotas on how many men can sit there and how many women can sit there.

But you've been through your share, and not everyone can stand that. I remember you saying that you also got e-mail threats.

That happens and it happens to everybody, maybe women more than men, because if you're a coward and you write anonymous emails, you usually kind of enjoy sending them to women. That's just the way it works.

I don't read them, I have a system set up so they don't even get to me. I've learned now that nothing can upset me in that regard. It used to bother me when there were threats of my mother being thrown down the stairs in her wheelchair and stuff like that. It kept me alert. And now I've set up a system where it doesn't get to me at all and the psychopaths can write whatever they want.

Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. However, I noticed, because I follow you on Facebook, that you took a swipe at Mrs Maláčová...

And here we get to the fact that you can't say that in the world of politics and men, all women are a better solution no matter what. Or the other way around, that men are a better solution in a school, for example, where there are mostly women.

That's not the case. I went off on Minister Maláčová because I have simply run out of patience. She really thinks that she can repeat any lie endlessly and that decent people will not speak up. By having a brake in you and telling yourself that a decent person won't respond to this, won't use these words and arguments, you can end up looking like a wimp. So I said to myself, no, and if that's what she wants to do, it's going to be on the principle of what goes around, comes around.

And do you get a response then, when you go off on someone on the networks like that? Do they confront you back?

No, in that respect, it hasn't happened to me that I have articulated my reservations on Facebook to a person and they get back to me and say let's sit down and let's talk it through. That hasn't happened to me, but I have heard from readers who are either on one side or the other and they like my arguments more or the other side's arguments more.

On the other hand, in the case of Mrs Maláčová, if she believes in what she is doing, she should speak up and stand up for herself, right?

We have already clashed like this in the Senate during a debate when she behaved in a way that really does not belong in a public Senate debate. So I went to warn her that she should behave properly. And it's not just me telling her.

For example, I just saw a debate where she was with Markéta Pekarová Adamová and with Tomio Okamura. You can disagree with someone a hundred times, but what the Minister did there was a rude person behavior.

Luxusní penthouse na Praze 1 - 226m
Luxusní penthouse na Praze 1 - 226m, Praha 1

Let's go back to you then. Tell me, you have been in the Senate for a year, right?

It'll be a year now in October.

And how are you doing here? Except for the fact I couldn't find you because you moved offices. How do you feel about that, was it a shift, a step forward?

It's been an extremely lucky change in my life. I didn't expect it to have such a positive effect on me, because I thought it was still Parliament. The House of Commons or the Senate, they are two chambers of Parliament and they do very similar work. But the significant difference, which I really appreciate and enjoy every day, is the atmosphere that is here. There is a mix of different views of the senators here, but they treat each other in a very refined and very polite way, which is fine with me.

They don't slap each other? Over there at the pulpits?

No, which is absolutely amazing, and I think it's due to two reasons. The first is that the direct election that takes place in the second round does not allow extremists, whether from the right or the left, to advance, and the people decide in the second round for a consensus politician. That is what we see here.

The second thing is that you have to fulfil the condition of being 40 years old, and that means that you have already had a career, you have had some experience in your personal life, you have had wins and losses. You're more established. That suits me very well in that respect. I feel like I've rebooted, I've regained all my strength and I'm very happy.

And what have you done well this year that you would highlight?

The year has been complicated by the fact that it was still tinged with the coronavirus madness, so the events that usually take place, like meetings or talks, were limited and restricted.

But what I focus on, what is my strength and what I went into the election with, is to be the one who reinforces the awareness in the Senate that we are a pillar of a democratic society. An insurance against all the possible excesses that can happen in government, in the House or at the level of the President. Which is what is happening now.

In my view, we do not have a President or a Prime Minister or a majority in the House that guarantees that democratic principles will not be violated. So, that is what I have been advocating in all my speeches and in everything I do, and I have met with a positive response.

And what about at home? Last time we spoke, you were preparing for your 40th anniversary?

More like the 50th. We had our 50th anniversary now.

And did you go to Italy, as you planned?

We were even supposed to go to La Scala in Milan. We had our tickets, then we had to cancel it because La Scala closed and we've rescheduled it for this November, so maybe we can do it this year.

So let’s hope the borders won't close. Anyway, what else is new with you? Something from that family life. Haven't you become a grandmother again?

No, not grandmother. But every year I'm enjoying gardening more and more, because after all, in the four years I've been trying to build a garden, I've already seen some results. A hedge that was half a meter high is now two meters high and suddenly what used to be just a trial and error period is behind me and I'm even growing more interesting things successfully.

So that's one big joy of mine. I would say the other one, when I can and have time for it, is riding my bike. I bought a newer model of an e-bike that gets further than the first one, and I'm trying to do something for my personal fitness.

I'd say I'm very lucky that we're healthy, that the family is okay. When I get homesick sometimes in the evening, I always have an internal command inside me that says stop and I say to myself, they are healthy, we love each other and everything is running well so nothing bad is happening. So in my private life, I would say that as the transition from the House to the Senate was a big reboot, there was no need to reboot anything here. I'm happy that it's running the way it's running.

That's good, and it also reminds me that in one of your interviews you said that your son is a doctor and that he is often angry with you for slacking off on your health checks.

Yes, he's stuck to that, that hasn't changed. It's just that now he has, I think, a more polished form of communicating his objections to me. Because once every month or so I get a text or an email and it's just "dtto", like he's already told me what to do once and now he's not going to do it again (laughs).

I wanted to ask you about the tornado in South Moravia earlier. Did it affect anyone close to you?

My husband is from South Moravia, but from Znojmo. That was not the area that was hit, but next to the area that the tornado went through, just outside the village of Hrušky, is Moravský Žižkov. As the crow flies, if I'm not mistaken, it's two to three kilometres. And we have a winemaker friend in Moravský Žižkov. We've been buying wine from him for years. We visit each other, I admire him, because he's a young man who I think is amazing, born to be a winemaker and he never laments it. But that has been a shock for him. Admittedly they weren't hit quite as badly as Hrušky, but later he wrote me an email that always gets me when I think about it.

He wrote, 'I never thought that writing that it actually only took my roof, destroyed my car and two-thirds of my vineyard would mean I ended up well. And if they say men don't cry, I'm not a man as of Friday.'

But it's been three months and his reports are more positive. He's rebuilding the vineyard, he's thriving, and he's helping his sister, whose house was taken by the tornado, with tremendous vigour.

I also wanted to ask about Afghanistan because I haven't seen you comment on it. What is your opinion?

I am not happy with the developments in Afghanistan. I think the Americans and their allies should not have left. Moreover, the departure was a strangely hasty one that really showed in its nakedness that they were not prepared for it. The Taliban marched victoriously from city to city as if they faced no resistance there at all.

Western civilization was not really able to respond adequately, either diplomatically, militarily, or, ultimately, with humanitarian assistance. If they had been better prepared for it, they would have had evacuation plans for both their soldiers and their associates, or for vulnerable people who found themselves there for any reason, such as a mother with children who was there with her parents and her husband is in Central Europe.

Do you think this will bring up the tendencies against migrants and strengthen the SPD voters?

I don't know. It could happen because building up fear is always the easiest thing to do and riding the wave of fear and panic will always get you media attention. But given that refugees aren't flocking here, and if they do, they want to go to Germany, I hope that there won't be many of those people who succumb to the idea that we are a threatened country. I believe that people have enough common sense to understand that they are being very unfairly manipulated by a section of the political scene instilling fear.

Finally, why should people go to the polls?

Every election is an opportunity. And we each have one vote. For me, it's always a tremendous opportunity to say what I want and what I don't want in life. And when I give up that opportunity, I give space for someone else to decide for me, and I'm just not going to do that in my life. I want to control my life to the extent that I can, and choices are a tool for me in that sense.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Fast confession:

Quick confession:

What made you most happy during September?

I saw an amazing concert of the Eben brothers in Moravské Krumlov and the exhibition of Mucha's Slav Epic. Then I went to Jiří Anderle's amazing exhibition in Pavlíkov, his home village in the Rakovník area. Those were two great experiences, and among other things, there’s always my garden.

Which party would you support financially?

I am a member of ODS, so it is obvious.

Have you read Babiš's latest book? What did you think of it?

No one has ever read any of Babiš's books, because Andrej Babiš Sr. has never written a book. It's all a scam, he signs something written by others. If it suits him, he will identify himself as the author of the Bible or The Grandmother. So no one has ever read anything by him.

Who do you think will win the election in October?

Since I'm a member of the ODS and we have a coalition called Spolu ("Together"), I believe we'll make it to a victorious end.

What would you say to people who refuse to be vaccinated against the coronavirus?

I would tell them they are adults after all. They've already heard so much, and if they still don't know what to do, they should talk to someone they trust or their doctor. I’d let them decide, they're adults.

What have our politicians done well in the last year?

I think the Government, against its will, managed to dismantle the Russian spy network in the Russian embassy in Prague and if it wasn't for Vrbětice, it wouldn't have dared to do it. That makes me happy.

What area of public life, apart from culture, would you say is the one that gets over-shaded the most?

I like a sentence by František Ladislav Rieger, who used to say: Work and knowledge is our salvation. So I would highlight the knowledge, and I would focus very much on science and research. That will get us back on our feet.

Is it time to ask seriously, whether will you run for president?

The time is not right yet.

You're a culture aficionado, what do you want to visit before the end of the year?

I've got a lot to do. I'm going to see Miroslav Sekera's amazing concert. Maybe you've seen the movie Amadeus and you remember the little Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, played by the already ingenious Mirek Sekera as a little boy. I'm looking forward to it. Then I have subscriptions to the Czech Philharmonic, premieres at the National Theater of The Barber of Seville, the book fair in Havlíčkův Brod, a concert by Václav Hudeček, Advent concerts, and I'm sure there's more to come.

Which event struck you emotionally this year?

There were two. Thirty thousand white crosses in Old Town Square and a tornado in South Moravia.

What was the last good deed you did?

The nice Czech saying applies here - if you do a good deed, keep quiet about it, but whoever gained something by your good deed should remember it.

The first flight of non-astronauts into space took place, would you go too?

I'm attracted to space, but I don't think I'm the type to fly a rocket. Looking at the stars from the ground suits me better - I think I'll stick with that.

What would you say to our president?

That I wish him his health improves.

What do you think would help Europe the most now?

I think it would help if it focused on two key things. The first is cyber security for all of us who live in Europe, and the second is to push individual member states to manage their funds wisely so that they do not put all the generations after us in debt.
The interviewee asks the editor:

We're three months away from Christmas - do you have a dream wish this year?

I love Christmas and look forward to it every year, and apart from my health, I would love to fly to French Polynesia.
Well, I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.
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